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A Good first step for short-term rentals

Halifax’s short-term rental laws can do better

Halifax is actively facing a housing crisis. Part of that is Airbnbs. 

Halifax has a housing problem. The city council and provincial legislature are working to solve it. Nova Scotia is not the only province to face this challenge, the cost of living is up in Canada. National and provincial governments are actively working to address these crises. 

A landmark step in the Nova Scotian solution is the neutering of Airbnbs. 

Airbnbs are cool, they can help subsidize a vacation and provide a cheap alternative to traditional tourist living arrangements. They’re not greasy like motels but they’re not wallet gouging like a hotel. Plus, you’re helping a person who’s probably more like you than Mr. Marriott.

At least that’s what people used to say about Airbnb. Recently, Airbnbs have come under fire for pricing urbanites out of their own cities. 

Halifax city councilors have decided to kneecap Airbnb proprietors in an effort to open up Halifax’s housing market. A host of regulations came into force Sept. 1,just in time for school), designed to reduce the amount of Airbnbs in the city. 

The infamous surreal notion of owning “a whole apartment of Air BnBs” is a real challenge in Halifax. As SaltWire reported, a man in Dartmouth is the sole non-Airbnb tenant in his building. An Airbnb tenant does not have the same protections as a traditional apartment dweller. 

Personally, I advocate for a commie-block utopia. The “commie block” refers to the prefabricated apartments that make up the stereotypical image of Eastern Bloc downtowns. 

I digress (as much as it pains me). 

Airbnb is a really innovative idea, opening more avenues for wealth creation and allowing Canadians to save some pennies during this economically challenging time. That should be its cap, saving pennies. 

Family want to go south for a week in the winter? Rent the hell out of your space. Commerce students figure they can deftly avoid regulations by calling them Airbnb units? That needs to be stopped. The city zoned these properties as an apartment for a reason. 

As an outsider who came to Halifax to study, some of its most striking features are its sense of community, tourism and “big city with a small town vibe”. Airbnb has a place in this city, but not in the weird legal limbo it previously existed in. 

There are solutions besides Airbnb.

An “apartment” building with an ever changing cast of Airbnb renters is not exactly a community. Can you imagine being that one tenant in Dartmouth? Dude has probably developed major isolation issues in that building. Tourism is a huge economic force here, but there are solutions besides Airbnb. 

Just build actual Bed ‘n’ Breakfasts. In no other city I can think of would you put a major hotel, or even a motel directly in a residential neighborhood, yet in Halifax it seems (almost) normal. Fuck that. 

To me, there’s nothing cool to do in a residential neighborhood besides get drunk, and Halifax has world-renowned bars for that exact reason. More importantly, it negatively impacts the residents of that neighborhood. As the “Neighbors Speak Up” group has made clear.

If Halifax truly is a “big city with a small town vibe”, a phrase that I think needs to be put up against a wall and shot, then build the infrastructure to accommodate it. Functional public transport, tourism infrastructure and the political will to control scummy rental practices, are all part of properly developing this city. 

A major complaint is along the lines of the poor Airbnb proprietors who now have to actually respect the law. For those who built units directly onto their property, congrats, you now have a live-in tenant. I fail to see why this causes so many people problems as it’s a very normal rental arrangement. 

For those with whole Airbnb apartment complexes, I suspect you’ll be ok . People are paying arms and legs for a place to live right now, I’m sure you’ll make your money back. 

Restricting short-term rentals is a really good idea. I hope to see both the municipal and provincial governments follow through on this effort to further alleviate the housing crisis in this city. 

Expand student, affordable and regular housing. Focus on long-term housing solutions. It’s time for Halifax to grow into its own as a big city, with a big city vibe.

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